Tue, Oct 07, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Cubs wave goodbye to 95 years of hurt

PLAYOFFS Chicago hadn't won in the postseason since 1908, but thanks to some miserly pitching from young gun Kerry Wood, the Cubs will face Florida for the NL pennant

AP , ATLANTA

Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa is engulfed by fans hands as he celebrates the Cubs' 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

Sammy Sosa sprinted across the outfield, high-fiving his teammates along the way. Thousands of Cubs fans sang Take Me Out To The Ball Game over and over.

In one magical evening, the Chicago Cubs ended 95 years of frustration.

Kerry Wood pitched another dominating game and Aramis Ramirez began the celebration with a mammoth home run, pushing the Cubs past Atlanta 5-1 in the decisive Game 5 on Sunday night for their first postseason series victory since the 1908 World Series.

The Cubs -- yes, the Cubs -- move on to play Florida in the National League championship series. Game 1 is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

"We heard a lot of negatives from people, and they have reason to be negative," first-year manager Dusty Baker said. "They haven't had any reasons to be positive for a long time."

They do now. When Andruw Jones struck out swinging on the final pitch, flashbulbs went off around the stadium. Catcher Damian Miller threw his arms in the air, then charged the mound to embrace closer Joe Borowski. Sosa tore across the grass with his arm in the air. Wood, sitting in the dugout, pumped his fist before heading to the field to join the celebration.

In the stands, Chicago's fans shouted, hugged and derisively performed the Tomahawk Chop -- the Braves' signature cheer.

Back in Chicago, thousands of Cubs fans streamed into the streets surrounding Wrigley Field when the game ended. Police had to shut down the streets surrounding the ballpark, and fans danced, cheered and hugged each other in an impromptu victory celebration.

The old, red marquee board outside the ballpark read simply, "Cubs Win!"

"I lived 'til next year," said an elated Norma Rolfsen of Chicago, a die-hard Cubs fan. "It's here! It's here! Thank God for Dusty Baker."

The Braves suffered another heartbreaking loss in the postseason, going down for the second year in a row in Game 5 of the division series.

Twelve straight division titles have produced only one World Series championship, and the Braves face an uncertain future. Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, Javy Lopez and Vinny Castilla are all in the last year of their contracts.

"We just didn't make any adjustments," Braves closer John Smoltz said. "They pitched the same way the whole series. But they dominated. It's not like they were throwing slop up there."

"It's unbelievable," said Sosa, who endured a beaning, injured toe and that infamous corked bat this year. "For me and everything I've been through, it's one of the great seasons that I've had."

A couple of ex-Pittsburgh Pirates helped the Cubs break through in the postseason. Kenny Lofton led off the game with a double and came around to score the first run. Ramirez put the Cubs up 4-0 with a two-run homer in the sixth -- a massive, 132m shot over the center-field wall.

Braves pitcher Mike Hampton didn't even turn around after Ramirez connected. With Wood on the mound, the Cubs could have popped the champagne right then and there.

Wood won for the second time in the best-of-five series with a performance that matched his effort in Game 1.

Yankees 8, Twins 1

The New York Yankees hit four doubles in a six-run fourth inning Sunday, giving David Wells a big lead and breezing into the AL championship series with an 8-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

After a sloppy loss in the opener which brought back memories of last year's first-round flop against Anaheim, New York beat the Twins three straight times to clinch the AL division series 3-1.

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